Bob Gordon, one of the leading macroeconomists in the US pointed out his observation on the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago:
He points to one indicator in particular with a remarkable track record: the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits. In past recessions, it has hit its peak about four weeks before the economy hit a trough and began to grow again. As of right now, the four-week average of new claims hit its peak of 650,000 in the week ended March 14. Based on the model, “if there’s no further rise, we’re looking at a trough coming in April or May,” he said, which is far earlier than most forecasts currently anticipate.
Jim Hamilton at UCSD verifies Gordon’s observation on a graph:
(click to enlarge; courtesy of Hamilton)
The graph above plots 4-week averages of the initial unemployment claims going back to 1967, with vertical lines drawn at the first week of the month in which the NBER eventually declared that a recovery from the recession began. Gordon’s relation is indeed pretty striking– in each of the last six recessions, the recovery began within 8 weeks of the peak in new unemployment claims.